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Brother E. David Ballard Provides $20,000 Last Mile Gift To Help Howard University Student Graduate

At Howard, a story of grit and grace

By Marcia Davis, May 14, 2017

Angel C. Dye graduated from Howard University on Saturday with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, and she’s heading off to a master’s program in fine arts this fall at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Hers was one face among those inside Burr Gymnasium on a chilly morning where the threat of rain hovered. The historic university, celebrating its sesquicentennial, awarded 2,173 degrees, all stories of achievement, and no doubt many of them threaded with tales of sacrifice and struggle, of overcoming great odds.

Dye’s story is like that, too, but in addition to the grit and fortitude it took to finish, hers is graced with generosity and the magic that sometimes can happen between strangers, even when it’s just voices over the telephone.

“I worked really hard to get here. I am really proud of myself for being at this point in my life,” Dye, 22, said post-ceremony Saturday as she stood in the crowd in her cap and gown, surrounded by family and friends who had traveled from Texas and Wisconsin.

Dye, like so many Howard students, had come to college — she from Dallas — with more hope than money and soon found herself behind a financial wrecking ball at a university battling its own fiscal troubles. By the time she was featured in a Washington Post Magazine article last spring about Howard and its struggles, she had been kicked out of her dorm, owed $20,000 in back tuition and was living off campus in tenuous circumstances. Dye had refused to go home, so she continued working to pay what she could, started a GoFundMe page and was attending classes even though she wasn’t registered.

E. David Ballard II, a retired medical doctor and Morehouse College graduate, read the article at his home in Duluth, Ga. Something moved him, he said, and he immediately told his wife, Linda. They got in touch with Dye by phone and were impressed with her commitment and enthusiasm. Soon, they were calling back. They wanted to help, they said. Dye had raised about $8,000 on her page. The Ballards decided they would pay off the tuition she owed. Within days they had wired the $20,000 to the university.

“I was convinced it was the right thing to do,” David Ballard said.

“Education really is the key to everything,” Linda Ballard said.

“It was amazing,” said Dye, who couldn’t believe what was happening.

The three have never met, but have stayed in regular contact.

“I would eventually love to meet them in person,” Dye said. “I sent them thank-you cards, a graduation announcement. I kept them in the loop on everything that was happening with me. They made such a huge investment to my life.”

Dye took out a $40,000 Parent Plus loan to finish senior year, a loan for which she and her mother, Sharon Cobb, had repeatedly been rejected. Everything began to fall into place, including her acceptance to graduate school, a two-year program with a full-ride fellowship, including a teaching assistant job.

“So many good things just happened back to back to back,” said Dye, a published poet. “It felt like God and the universe were affirming to me that I was on the right path. Because certainly when I had to move out of my dorm last year, and the day when I was distraught and I was praying and I was asking God, ‘Please give me a sign, because I don’t think I’m in the right place.’ ”